February 11th, 2010


St. Phrembah, The Dreary

I'm thinking my memoir will be titled "Embodying Dreariness."

I was looking at a pair of Eastwood retro-repro guitars on their web site.  They are Roy Smeck tribute models.  Yeah, I had to Google Roy Smeck, too.  He was "The Wizard of Strings" back in the thirties into the sixties.  He wrote method books for ukulele and such and was supposedly one of the best lap steel players in history.  Anyway, at one time, Gibson had a "Roy Smeck Signature Model" and so did Harmony (a once famous now defunct maker of mid-priced and department store guitars).  When Montgomery Ward had Harmony provide some of their Airline line of guitars, they titled two of those Roy Smeck signature models as well.  So, along comes Mike Robinson fifty years later, sweeping behind the broken down armoirs rotting in the collective attic of the boomer generation and issuing remakes of all of these cheap and semi-cheap guitars that people owned when they were in junior high and high school, the kind of guitars likely to have been someone's first guitar bought in a pawn shop or through a newspaper add.  Mike's guitars are not cheap.  While nowhere near as expensive as an American made Gibson or Fender, they costs a bit and are very well made. 

Mike has "reissued" several Airline models including two Roy Smeck tribute models.  I printed out their photos and pasted them above my desk so I can live with them for a while and see if I truly need to own one.  One of them is very retro (lightning bolt-shaped pick guard) but really nice looking with a quilted maple top and back.  The other has one of the most dreary half-assed hazy dark red "sunburst" finishes I have ever seen.  The dreary look is accentuated by off-white colored control knobs, including an off-white chicken head pickup selector.  It also has a white plastic pick guard that doesn't really belong.  While the maple top job is by far the cooler guitar, the dreary one is the one I am drawn to because it embodies the dreariness of 1960s department store guitars, guitars that were half as good as a Gibson or a Fender or a Gretsch, but still totally out of reach of the average junior high school kid who will probably end up mowing lawns for two summers running to be able to afford a used one.

Like I said: dreary.  Solid, middle-American, definitely character-building, but . . . dreary.  You know, that's where Guy Maddin missed the boat with The Saddest Music In the Word.  Sad music may or may not be dreary.  I need to trudge forth and explore the depths of drear as they apply to music.  Guy did a great job of enshrining general dreariness in My Winnipeg, but somebody stills needs to make The Dreariest Music In the World.